State and federal regulators and the industries we regulate have donned life jackets. It's as if we are boating down the unexplored Grand Canyon with John Wesley Powell1 in 1869. We share a vague...
Glasgow, Ky. power chief takes Fortnightly to task.
"The great obstacle of man is the illusion of knowledge," says Daniel Boorstin, distinguished American historian and Librarian of Congress emeritus.
It is what we think we know that keeps us from making progress toward discovering new certainties. The electric utilities of today have a lot in common with the sailors who accompanied Christopher Columbus. They stand on the shores of a new continent gazing into the unexplored wilderness of competition, paralyzed by fear due to their "illusion of knowledge."
When Columbus sailed off on the morning of Aug. 3, 1492, he was discarding the conclusions of the orthodox Christian authorities. After four trips to the New World he died believing he had been exploring the East Coast of Asia. It turns out his main discovery was the discovery of ignorance (em European man's ignorance of the world. The Glasgow Electric Plant Board and several other municipal utilities have embarked on similar voyages of discovery. Old dogma is difficult to overcome, but if all electric utilities pay attention to the main discoveries of these voyages, they can cast off the ignorant ramblings of modern economic and business authorities and discover a new product, infotricity.
Infotricity is the term we have given to the product we have been offering at the EPB. It is a combination of electric power, cable television, telephony and high speed LAN and Internet services. It is a mixture of electrons and bits. It is a complicated and unexpected set of interrelations. It has unimagined consequences and possibilities. It is another New World.
The modern day "authorities" have written and said much about the New World we have discovered in Glasgow. The Cable Telecommunications Association (CATA) has even created a site on the Internet dedicated to spreading its particularly slanted misinformation about us. Even magazines and periodicals that our industry trusts implicitly like Public Utilities Fortnightly have published articles spreading the illusion (See "Munis Find Cable TV a Costly Business," by Len Grzanka, Sept. 15, 1998, Public Utilities Fortnightly, p. 34).
When the EPB decided to construct a broadband network and offer entertainment and telecommunications services, we did not plan on immediate revenue gains from these new products. Instead, we planned on rediscovering our initial mission of providing and simplifying technology for our customers. We looked out upon a landscape where the possibilities of services from new telecommunications technologies and the realities of the actual services being offered were not even in the same field of view. Similarly, we saw that the rates being charged when these services were offered were outrageously high. We set out upon a voyage to discover ways to rectify these images and we have learned much.
One of our early discoveries was that our existing lineman, accountants, engineers and other employees were plenty smart enough to design, construct, operate and maintain a broadband network capable of delivering a flow of bits every bit as robust as the network they already were operating to supply a flow of electrons. I know several engineers will correct me and